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Geotextile: The emerging frontier

The term ‘Geotextile’ can be separated into two pieces, ‘geo’ and ‘textile’. Theoretically, the word ‘geo’ originates from the Greek word meaning ‘earth’. Geotextiles can be defined as natural or polymer fabrics with permeable textile materials that are used in combination with soil or any other civil engineering material.

It is a branch of technical textiles, is commonly used in the construction of roads, drains, harbor works, breakwaters, land reclamation, and many other civil engineering purposes and can separate, filter, reinforce, protect, or drain when used in association with soil. They are generally used as an alternative to granular soil filters.

Figure: The demand for jute geotextile in developed economies is increasing day by day because of its eco-friendly features and competitive costings. Courtesy: Collected

Geotextiles can be divided into two main categories: Fiber-based geotextiles & Fabric-based Geotextiles. Natural fibers, Man-made fibers, Polypropylene, Polyester, Polyamide and Polyethylene, fall under “Fiber-based geotextiles.”

On the other hand, “Fabric-based Geotextiles” entail woven, knitted and non-woven geotextiles[1]. Five major functions play parts for geotextiles to have its wider application in both large-scale civil engineering projects and small-scale hardscape projects. The functions entail separation, drainage, filtration, reinforcement, and sealing/protection.

According to the European standards, requirements of geotextiles in the application areas are defined by: roads, railways, earthworks, retaining walls, drainage systems, erosion control, dams, canals, underground structures, solid waste disposal, liquid waste containment, etc.

The introduction of geotextiles was established in China and Kerala of this subcontinent. Tracing back to early civilization, woven mats made of roads which were used in Babylonia was the early evidence of geotextile.

The wider application of geotextiles began during the 1950s after the invention of polymeric materials. Netherland was the first country to initiate the development of man-made geotextiles in 1953 through the “Delta” project to save the country from the ravages of floods generated from the Northern Sea.

Other developed countries like the USA started using geotextiles especially to prevent soil erosion. Around the 1960s, manmade geotextiles started to gain momentum around the globe[2].

At present, seven local companies meet over 95% of the country’s demand for nonwoven geotextiles. And, woven geotextiles are used in some projects, including railways, but domestic companies are yet to manufacture woven geotextiles. 

Currently, the world geotextiles market is witnessing rapid growth due to stringent government regulations on the commercial use of geotextiles. Moreover, due to various functional advantages over other materials, global demand for geotextiles is increasing.

Furthermore, increasing population, rapid urbanization and increasing investments in infrastructural developments are some major factors triggering the growth of the geotextiles market.

The global market for geotextiles is anticipated to grasp USD8.24 billion by 2020, according to a new study by Grand View Research Inc. which further revealed that the Asia Pacific was the biggest geotextile end-user and is also expected to be the fastest-growing regional market over the forecast period.

Besides, increasing regulatory support in emerging countries including India, China, UAE and Brazil is also projected to enhance the demand for geotextiles. Non-woven geotextiles were the most frequently used geotextiles over the years, at an expected consumption of 1,561 million square meters[3].

For the last two decades in Bangladesh, geotextiles or geosynthetics have been applied to some extent in the construction of railways, roads (temporary and permanent), highways, embankments and retaining walls, in erosion control and drainage systems.

According to industry insiders, demand for geotextiles will grow day by day in Bangladesh as there are many infrastructures development projects on the pipeline.

It is encouraging to note that 1.47 crore geobags and 68,000 geotubes were used in river training meant for the Padma bridge project. The demand for geotextiles in Bangladesh now stands at BDT10 to BDT12 billion per year[4]. The use of geobags started in the country during the last leg of the 1990s. In that period, the demand then was met through imports, mainly from Malaysia.

However, with our continuous rise in demand for geotextiles, dependence on imports decreased considerably following the commencement of domestic production of nonwoven geotextiles. At present, seven local companies meet over 95% of the country’s demand for nonwoven geotextiles. And, woven geotextiles are used in some projects, including railways, but domestic companies are yet to manufacture woven geotextiles.

According to sources, Dird Felt Ltd. was the first to start marketing geotextiles in the country. Presently, the company employed about 1,000 people and has a daily production capacity of about 75 tons.

In addition, natural fiber-based textile especially Jute geo-textile (JGT) is becoming popular day by day. Even though jute is a seasonal agricultural crop, it still widely grows in the South Asian subcontinent, particularly in Bangladesh.

The demand for jute geotextile in developed economies is increasing day by day because of its eco-friendly features and competitive costings.

Research showed that JGT can absorb 300%-400% of water. For example, one square meter of JGT can absorb 1.5-2.5 liters of water. Hence, JGTs efficiently biodegrade in a prolonged moist environment. Leveraging on its jute production, Bangladesh can earn billions of dollars from the domestic market by ensuring proper use of jute geotextile (JGT) in preventing soil, river and embankment erosion and landslide in hilly areas instead of exporting raw jute.

Considering the unique features embedded within geotextile, we surely can develop our home-grown weaving, non-woven and warp knitting capability to master the skills to manufacture fabrics of varying specifications for the progression of the geotextile sector.

Sabbir Rahman Khan
About author: Sabbir Rahman Khan
The writer is a Knowledge Management, Communications and Advocacy Professional working for an international development organization.

Encouragingly, every year Bangladesh Government allocates a huge budget to build or renew roads in rural-urban areas. If geotextiles are used, then the life span of those roads will increase manifold.

Another potential avenue is the effective management of the sludge generated by Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) installed around Bangladesh.

By using geobags, one can easily separate the solid waste from the slurry leading to a safer environmental solution. Pourashava and city corporation management can take resort to geotextile-led solutions during clearing mud-clogged drains to separate solids from liquid.

However, more research is required to analyze and enhance the performance of geotextiles in the Bangladeshi context.

Experts suggest that nanotechnology can be applied for this purpose and modification of both natural and synthetic fibers as well as novel finishing processes can be performed to attain the best-desired properties for the diverse and viable practical application of geotextile.

The views expressed are personal.

[1] https://www.textileblog.com/geotextiles-types-properties-functions/

[2] https://irispublishers.com/jtsft/fulltext/an-overview-of-geotextiles-industrial-application-in-technical-textiles.ID.000593.php

[3] https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/geotextile-market

[4] https://www.tbsnews.net/economy/geotextile-promises-new-investments-big-gains-296461

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